Several years ago, Evie loved dandelions, so Sara suggested we try making dandelion jelly.  However, they would come Memorial weekend, and by then most of the dandelions were past blooming.  So this year, I decided to make it early, at the “peak” of the dandelion season.


We don’t spray, so our dandelions were safe, and we have a lot of them.  There are many recipes available online, and I decided on this one, from Taste of Home.  It only called for 2 cups of dandelion blossoms, what could be easier?  Well, over an hour and a half of picking and separating yellow from green was not as easy as I thought.

Once I got started, I didn’t stop to take pictures until I was done.  I made 3 half pints and 6 half cup jars. (They all sealed, too!)


I gave a lot away to friends who couldn’t believe I was making it, and have 2 half-pints left for Sara.  The recipe used a lot of lemon extract, so it tastes very lemony.  If I make it again next year, I might change that a little.



I’m Baaaaack

After about 6 months of not posting, I hope I haven’t lost all of my followers.  It has been a busy time.  In November my oldest, Sara, broke her foot.  Not that big a deal, right?  Except she was 7 1/2 months pregnant, with a 8-year-old and a 5-year-old, she walks everywhere, it was her right foot and she would have to take off the boot to drive, and Evie (the 8 year old) had a lead in a community theater production.  So I spent a few days each week in Chicago to help with logistics until the play was done and school was out for Christmas.


December 29 our third grand child, Alexander Vernon, was born.

Alex birth


In January we visited my sister and brother-in-law (yes, Junior, the painting and floor refinishing dynamo) in Gulf Shores.

In February I started not one but two part time jobs.  I am now children’s education coordinator at my church, and circulation clerk at my local public library.  Although the learning curve was not bad on either, and I found that I get housework done more efficiently, not much else gets done.

So, Alex is now four months old, I’m in a rhythm for working, and things such as sewing, painting, gardening, and WRITING should get back on track.

Alex smile

Community Supported Agriculture

Last spring I bought a half-share in a local farm’s crop.  Each week I pick up a crate of fresh picked, all-but-the-paperwork, organic vegetables.  Friends on Facebook have seen me publish the pictures of my “haul” most weeks.  For those who haven’t, here are just a few:

week 8 week 17 week 13 week 10 week 1 week 3

It will probably go through the first week in November, coming to about $12.00 per week. The veggies have been wonderful, the farmer is great, picking them up is easy and only about 7 miles away.  I’m obviously not sorry I did it, but I’m not sure I’ll do it again.  A friend picked up the share three times that I was gone.  If she wants to split a half with me, I may do that.  Otherwise, I think I’ll put the same amount of money in an envelope in May, and go each week to a farmers’ market.  (Fulton Street Market in Grand Rapids is great.)

If it was such wonderful, why would I not buy a share again?  Because I don’t get a say in what is planted.  It was really heavy on the greens.  Almost every week had kale, those that didn’t had chard.  Usually there was Asian green, vitamin green, lettuce, bok choy, and/or cabbage as well.  I would have liked more zucchini and much more cucumbers.  I have cherry tomato plants at home, but it would have been nice to get enough tomatoes to can or freeze.  I did get really good at making quiche, which I made about 8 or 9 times.  Given almost any vegetables and some eggs, I can now throw together a quiche pretty easy.  I never tried a frittata, but I’m sure I could do that as well.


I also made Sara and Shane’s Burst Tomato Gallette 3 times:


Although some veggies ended up being composted because I just didn’t get to them, I’m sure I got my money’s worth, and learned about a lot of new vegetables I’d never used before.



New floors and redecorating, part 2

Now we have two nearly empty rooms.  I’m not even ready to start putting things on the walls!  In the living room, we have Tom’s recliner (his real office), coffee table, end table, and lamps.  In the dining room we have the table and chairs, and replaced the big heavy oak desk with a much lighter desk.  Our old sofa went with Ben last year when he and Jen moved, and we moved out the tall bookcase next to Tom’s chair.  We need to decide on a sofa, rugs, window treatment, and possibly a different bookcase. Here is what the rooms currently look like, showing the walls and windows, not just the floors.

Dining room:

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…and the living room:

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At first Tom thought a red sofa, but then realized it would be better to have bright colors in curtains, pillows, or rugs.  This is the sofa we are looking at, in a blue, green, or brown:


I like no curtains, but realize it isn’t practical.  I’m thinking of making a no hardware Roman shade like these:


After we decide on the sofa and I find fabric for the windows, we’ll start looking at rugs.  We’ll either bring Tom’s bookcase back into the living room, or find something lighter, like the desk:


I’m open to suggestions!






New floors and redecorating, part 1

I described the floors in the living room and dining room after pulling up the carpet: oak around the outside, pine in the middle.  In July, my brother-in-law, Junior, sanded and finished the floor.  (He also painted the living room, dining room, stairs, and upstairs hallway.  Because I asked his advice on how to reach the walls in the open stairway.)

Sanding down the floors, the difference in the living-room was more marked than in the dining room.

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The finishing turned out beautiful.  Junior is the Energizer bunny.  We used the water based polyurethane, it takes more coats but a new coat can be added every two hours.  Junior was up in the middle of the night adding a coat!

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Unfortunately, cats drag racing through the house seems to leave more scratches. Whether it is the pine or water-based varnish, or a combination, I’m not sure.

11826027_1179727785387270_6619235374510559416_n (Zedd and Chrissy)

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Grandma Lois, Teddy Bear Grandma, Grandma Strack

grandma & ollie

Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 91st birthday.  I was afraid of her when I first met her; now I miss her so much.  She was the mother to me my own mother never was.  If anyone says I did too much for my kids, I say I had two examples.  I chose to follow hers.  She loved me as her own child as well.

In 2012, Sara and our niece Lisa decided we should have an 88th birthday party for her.  She used to always reverse the digits in her birthday, and this time she couldn’t.  She wasn’t feeling great, but it was so good for her to see all of her friends and family.  A month later she had surgery for colon cancer.  The prognosis was a year or two, but she would be comfortable.  A week later she developed sepsis and was gone.

When Ben and Tom visited her in the hospital, she told Ben that all of her nurses so far were married, but she was still looking for him.  Within days either way of losing her he met Jen.  Grandma would have loved her.  Each of the grandkids has a bear named for them.  Ben decided that “Gentle Ben” should have a place of honor at the wedding, with some flowers in front of him.  It was mentioned by Pastor Tommy, so everyone would know.  (Sorry, no one took a picture, and the pictures taken by the photographer aren’t available yet.  Here is a picture of the bear, though.)  Grandma was there with us on that beautiful day.


Happy birthday, Grandma.  We miss you.

Sometimes I’m a terrible mom

We travelled lot with the kids when they were young.  We were on a tight budget, so we mostly camped with a pop-up camper. We were able to travel to all of the 48 contiguous states at least once. Tom always tells of our eclectic tastes: we went to every national park and Hard Rock Cafe that we could.

At the HRC Tom would get a traditional t-shirt, always black, until they quit making them in black. I got pins, mostly guitar pins. The girls got different things, whatever struck their fancy. Ben got a “city tee,” each with a unique picture representing the city. And he wore them a lot!

When Ben was in college, he decided to make a quilt from these t-shirts: they were worn, underarm stains, some too small. He could have done it, but I knew I could do better. I convinced him to let me do it.

I think I started it the year Junior refinished the playroom (changing to office) floor, because Linda helped me cut out muslin squares for backing. (About 2008?) I didn’t want to use fusible web, and something had to stabilize the knit fabric. I decided that all the squares should be the same size, so they were the size of the largest picture.

Then it was back to school for another year. Each year at Ben’s birthday and in the summer I would do a little more. Then I would get sidetracked. Sewing or knitting for Evie or Ollie, painting exterior or interior of the house. Suddenly he was moving to Rochester for grad school. (Suddenly? After 6 years?) I decided I had to get it done.

I dropped the idea of adding a wide border to make it bedspread size. I incorporated the small lapel symbols into a border. I tied rather than quilted. I made 2 pillows from the unused shirts. It was done in time for the move.


Tom asked me if I would make one from his shirts. I asked, “Do you have 7 years?”



The Wedding, part 2

The reception began immediately, with guests invited to have beverages and begin games as a few pictures were taken.  The trail mix bar that was meant to be a favor became a pre-meal snack for many, but that was fine.

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The bride and groom started the food line.  Camping food-hamburgers, hotdogs, black bean burgers, potato chips.  (Catering was perfect, courtesy of Donna’s Catering.)  Everyone was able to serve themselves very quickly.  Instead of cake, Ben and Jen chose to have a s’mores bar.  They made their first official s’more as husband and wife.  (The pan on the end of marshmallows were my homemade peanut butter marshmallows.  They didn’t brown well when toasted, but did get soft and warm enough to melt the chocolate.  They were a hit!)

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The gentleman of Phi Mu Alpha serenaded the bride.

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There were the traditional first dances.

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Although music played all evening, guests chose to play games or just chat.

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Ben informed us that the guests didn’t just have to be out by 9:00, but the gates would be locked at 9:00!  So around 8 we started taking down and packing up.  The last table to be taken down was where my family was playing Settlers of Catan.  As Sara said, “They wanted us to play games!”  Of course, she won.

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The Wedding, part 1

Rick Mecklenburg, Ben’s friend and former meteorologist at Fox 17, promised clear skies and 75 degrees over a week before the wedding, even when others were forecasting rain.  Rick was right (actually, I guess it was 76 degrees.)  We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.

Jen’s family making centerpieces:

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It had been so crazy busy for the last week, it seemed strange to not have much to do.  Sara’s family and Anna and Nick went out for breakfast.  Junior  went to pick up a ladder and help Ben and the guys put up 100 Chinese lanterns in the trees and the pavilion.  Tom and Nick went to get the beer.  Jen’s family and friends decorated the tables.  I decided I actually did have time for a shower.

Anna and I went to River Oaks Park, where the wedding would be.  I wish I had taken pictures then of the venue.  It looked wonderful, and I never had time later.  Thankfully, a few people did.

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The chairs for the ceremony were past the pavilion, up a slight hill, dropping down, I assume to the river, beyond.  I made sure the first batch of sangria was made and ready. We moved a chair to face the audience, off to the side, and placed “Gentle Ben,”  Ben’s bear from Grandma Strack, and flowers.  This was Ben’s idea, to honor his Grandma, who passed away about the time he and Jen met.

Guests began to arrive, many stopping at the pavilion to find their seat for the reception before going to the outside seating for the ceremony.  Of course, there is always something.  Just when Ben arrived it was discovered that there was no power to the sound system.  Cords were found, working outlets were found at the far side of the building.

We were seated, the wedding party was in place, we turned to watch Jennifer, escorted by her mom and dad, walk toward us.  I turned back to look at Ben.  That grin on his face came and never left again that evening.

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The service itself was perfect.  I wish I had written things down sooner, because Pastor Tommy’s homily was so good.  The most moving part, though, was a Celtic handfasting ceremony.  As Tommy read a piece, he would wrap a different colored cord around their clasped hands.  What I remember most, now, is the question he asked each of them, “Will you cause him pain?” “I may.” “Will that be your intent?” “No.”

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Although there were several cameras, still and motion, for the official pictures, very little time was taken for picture taking.  “First look” and wedding party had already been done.  The guests were encouraged to start games and beverages while pictures were taken.  The caterer had arrived , and hot dogs and hamburgers were on the grill.